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I know when the topic of Orlando comes up the first thought is THEME PARKS! I know that is where my mind first heads! I have been visiting Orlando for years and never ventured past the central hub of theme park central! Now that we are permanent Floridians we have made it a goal of ours to explore our new home state. I don’t know if you know this or not…but Florida? IT IS HUGE! Like, really huge! There are so many fun and exciting places to visit!
If you ever find yourself visiting Orlando and you want to find something off the beaten path to do…look no further than the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive! Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is just about 30-40 minutes away from Walt Disney World…but it will feel like a completely different universe! I’m talking dirt roads, birds, snakes, turtles, OH…and gators…LOTS of gators!!!
The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is an 11 mile drive along a one way road. Now you may be thinking…11 miles? Do I really want to drive 40 minutes for an 11 mile drive? The answer is YES…yes you do! The 11 mile drive took us approximately 2.5 hours…for real! They recommend allowing 1-3 hours for the drive and there are a couple of reasons for this. The first reason…it is a 10mph road…it isnt intended for you to blast through it like you are driving on I-4…anyone who has had the pleasure of driving I-4 surely knows what I mean! Second…you are going to want to make several stops. Throughout the drive there are spots where you can pullover to see all kinds of wildlife and beautiful scenery…remember those gators I mentioned?! Now, we were traveling with 3 kiddos…so you can imagine that we made several “bonus” stops to find missing goldfish crackers, use the port-o-potty, and let the kids walk off some energy…but I would plan on at least 90 minutes to complete the trip!
Not only is this an absolutely gorgeous drive, but it is absolutely FREE! Free is really good when visiting the Orlando area, am I right? The drive even has a self-guided audio tour that you can listen to as you drive. Pretty neat, hunh? I also highly recommend checking out their website before heading to visit…they have some really helpful information! I was able to print out a map, a butterfly checklist, and a birding checklist before we went…which for a homeschool Mom was like solid gold! You better believe I turned this drive into a homeschool lesson!
- Make sure you have gas in your tank…would totally stink to get stuck out there
- Pack lots of water and snacks
- Camera! So many beautiful things to take pics of
- Binoculars! These were so helpful to see birds far out in the trees
- Animal Identification books/pamphlets- here are our favorites for Birds, Reptiles and Amphibians, and Butterflies
- Wet Wipes- not necessarily for the drive…but if you go anywhere with kids…just have wet wipes…plus…port-potties…
The Apopka Wildlife Drive is open from Sunrise to Sunset on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Federal Holidays. This is an awesome opportunity to really get to experience Florida wildlife. We saw many different species of birds including herons, egrets, cormorants, osprey, and several more. We saw snakes…and a snake getting eaten by a bird! Cirlce of Life stuff folks! We saw tortoises, fish, a soft shell turtle, and no less than 26 alligators. It was truly an awesome experience!
Do you have any favorite places to visit in Florida? We are always looking to add more places to our Florida Bucket List!